My Achilles heel has always been lack of control. Of course this leaves me vulnerable to everything as control is no more than an illusion. While I believe in a higher power and have faith there is a plan for my life, I still like to think I’m behind the wheel and in charge of my ultimate destination.
Being a parent is vulnerability like none other. These fresh souls hit the planet in fragile human bodies and boom! You’re responsible for their welfare and survival. No pressure there.
Somewhere in the melee of life, the tables turn though. You’ve done you’ve job and kept your progeny alive and the baton of survival passes. That’s how I feel at this moment. I am sitting by my dad’s hospital bedside as he receives his first Rituxan infusion. This form of chemotherapy is used to treat Waldenstroms, the rare form of blood cancer he’s afflicted with.
I sit and watch as nurses prepare his i.v. line while peppering him with questions about his current medications and understanding of the treatment at hand; the treatment that comes with many possible dire side effects including brain infection and death. Yet to not have the treatment would result in certain death, time being the only factor.
My mother sits next to me trying to divert her anxiety by reading the same paragraph over and over again. Her partner of nearly fifty-five years, father of her four children and love of her life is facing his mortality in a more profound and immediate way than ever before. She is holding herself together by sheer will alone.
As the chemo drips into my dad’s veins we ask, “Do you feel anything different? Are you numb? Do you have a headache?” all in hopes of catching a bad reaction before it can do too much damage. I am overcome with feelings of helplessness. This man I love beyond measure, my head cheerleader and support is fighting for his life. And there’s nothing I can do. So I comfort him in the same way I would comfort my children. I give him a cookie and tell him I love him.
I’m flooded with images of my childhood. My dad pushing me on the swing that hung from the big Maple tree in our back yard, running next to my bike and cheering when my training wheels came off, discussing philosophy and the meaning of life with me, dropping me off at college and reminding me to have fun and walking me down the aisle. This man that held my babies with such love and joy is eighty-one years old and his physical body is wearing down.
As I sit here so achingly vulnerable, I pray, “Dear God, I am trying to accept my helplessness over things I cannot control. I know my dad won’t live forever. But please, please, don’t let today be the day I have to say goodbye to him.”